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Dan Lohman is Founder and CEO of Pushup Social, which makes adding an online community to a website as easy as adding as installing a plugin or pasting a line of code. Pushup recently integrated with popular drag-and-drop website builder, Weebly and this month, Pushup was accepted to the Plug and Play Ventures’ retail accelerator in Silicon Valley.
What were you doing before Pushup?
I had started a number of bootstrapped companies in the past—most were a bit less scalable than I wanted. I was searching for space for two of them, Cubicle.com and Ignition Tank and looking for ways to build more scalable companies. That led to the launch of a coworking space, Lab1500, with my wife Liz and a good friend Jan Andersen. Lab1500 was a physical space where people could come together and collaborate around ideas.
What was the impetus in launching Pushup?
I had been around the emerging St. Louis tech ecosystem while building Lab1500 and was looking to jump into my own tech startup. I met Yomi Toba, a Lab1500 member, and saw he was working on some very intriguing technology. We ended up partnering up alongside my cofounder of Lab1500 Jan Andersen. That partnership ultimately became Pushup.
What’s the Pushup value proposition?
Pushup makes websites more social. Typically one must direct their website visitors away from their site to engage them socially. With Pushup, you can add a social hub to your website in minutes. Yomi had a prototype that addressed the challenges people have in building their own online social communities, I saw tremendous potential in that. That’s what we do today—we make it as easy as adding one line of code or a plugin to a website without having to rebuild it. You can now engage your website visitors directly on your website, keep them there longer and show them social content that humanizes your brand.
What kind of traction are you getting?
We’ve raised a substantial amount of angel funding which is leading to more growth and momentum. The Weebly partnership shows investors that we have a proven distribution channel, which is huge, and lets us add over 30 new Pushup communities every day. We have some really dynamic communities, like one for military families, that is hyper engaged. Our data is also showing that if a site visitor engages with Pushup on a site, they stay on site on average over 400% longer.
What phases have you gone through or pivots have you made?
We started just being about building an online community, but we added social media aggregation fairly quickly, so a site moderator can add their own Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds to their Pushup community. Our next phase will address launching enhanced social media feeds, which will allow even more options for aggregation.
Describe the moment when you first thought you were viable.
It was having the first customers that weren’t friends or family member, that were using the product in ways that we didn’t expect and finding value. That was the lightswitch.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
I would want to solve a compelling problem and I would definitely be starting or building another company. I like the Internet of Things space, I see a lot of potential there.
What do you need these days?
We’re like many startups with all the typical needs—capital, talent and customers. Access to capital is the biggest gap we have in the community. Also, the center of the social media tech world is in the Bay Area. We know that we need to have a presence there to network and interact with investors, customers and technology partners, so anything we can do to build and maintain that presence is pretty important as well.
What’s your vision? Does it go beyond Pushup?
Right now it’s all about Pushup. We’re humanizing brands. Brands are being fragmented by all the social media channels, we want to keep conversation and activity on a brand’s website instead of sending it away to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Who’s another founder that you admire?
Jim McKelvey—I admire his extreme ability to focus, to declutter the path and simplify the goals. When we were building LaunchCode early on, he made it so the whole team could rally around the same singular focus. That and his ability to really inspire the best people around and keep them engaged.
Where do you office and why?
We’re at CIC@4240. Density for a startup is important—being around other people and companies that have done it. It’s essential. With the sheer volume and diversity of people we see here—people, corporations, startups—it makes connection part of daily life. We keep that energy and serendipity here.